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LESSONS IN BED                                        57
composed of Anglo-Iixdian girls, most of whom are Christians.
The humiliations which these girls often have to suffer are past
belief, particularly when they go on private cases. One girl, of
high culture and intelligence, told me that she was expected to
eat with the sweepers, and that after bathing her patient with
antiseptic the patient always insisted on bathing again in order
to wash off the 'polition* of her touch.
Whose fault is it that there are only 65,000 nurses in India ?
The fault of the British women ? There are not even 65,000
British women in India, let alone nurses, and there never have
And those 60,000 cases of tuberculosis ?
Well, at least 50 per cent of them are due to an institution over
which the British have absolutely no control—Purdah. If you
walk through the streets of Peshawar you will never see a female
face. The few women you meet are covered from head to foot;
two narrow slits for the eyes and a tiny hole for the mouth—that
is all the fresh air they ever get.
elf anybody had tried to invent a costume that was quite ideal
for the incubation of microbes,* said the doctor in my ward, 6he
could not have done better than Purdah. We fight it year in and
year out, but we can't fight it too openly for fear of offending the
religious susceptibilities of the people.5
Religion—always religion, fighting progress, darkening the
windows of the surgery, playing fantastic pranks with the bottles
ux the dispensary. As the days went by I began to feel that I was
in a sort of crazy monastery, rather than a modern hospital.
'There's trouble in one of the wards in the next wing,* said
my nurse one Monday morning.   c A girl with acute appendicitis.
She ought to be operated on at once.   But she won't have it done
till Wednesday.'
'Why not?3
'Because to-morrow is not an "auspicious day." By Wednesday
she'll probably be dead.*
'More trouble,' she said, another morning.
'What's the matter this time ?'
'A little boy's just arrived with eighteen relations who insist on
sleeping by his bed.'